Kurt Loder Movie Reviews

Movie Review: Patriots Day

Mark Wahlberg in a powerful tale of real-life jihadi terrorism.

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Patriots
Lionsgate

Peter Berg's Patriots Day is a true ensemble movie, marshaling the talents of many performers in the service of a multi-pronged narrative related with headlong purpose. The picture depicts the city of Boston as a community suddenly united by a surge of courage and resilience in the wake of an inexplicable horror—the Boston Marathon bombing of April 15, 2013. To his substantial credit, director Berg, in dealing with this brutal attack, delivers a tense and tightly edited police procedural that never sinks to cheap emotional manipulation of the awful event at its center.

Mark Wahlberg stars (it's his third Berg movie, following Deepwater Horizon and Lone Survivor), but unlike many of the film's other characters, who represent real-life people, his scrappy police sergeant, Tommy Saunders, is an invention—a composite character who's on hand to lead us from one key plot point to another. This might have seemed a lazy device if Boston-native Wahlberg didn't make it work with his usual skill and likeability (and if his harried cop weren't so ingratiatingly detailed—Saunders has a drinking problem, job troubles, and a bum leg to boot).

The picture begins with introductions to the characters we'll be spending the next two hours with. Apart from Tommy and his steadfast wife (Michelle Monaghan), there's a pair of affectionate newlyweds (Rachel Brosnahan and Christopher O'Shea), a veteran police sergeant (J.K. Simmons, deploying just enough of a Boston drawl to be persuasive), a sharp young Chinese entrepreneur (Jimmy O. Yang), and a pretty MIT student (Lana Condor) who has her eye on a smitten young cop (Jake Picking), who's eying her right back.

Then we meet the bombers, Chechen immigrants and longtime U.S. residents Tamerlan Tsarnaev (Themo Melikidze) and his younger brother Dzhokar (an excellent Alex Wolff). Dzhokar is watching jihadi videos on a laptop in the small apartment Tamerlan shares with his wife Katherine (Melissa Benoist)—an American who has converted to Islam—and their little daughter. The atmosphere is grim, the three grownups inscrutable, and already scary.

Berg has no interest in offering rationalizations for the Tsarnaevs, but he doesn't turn them into bloodthirsty clichés, either. Tamerlan, an aspiring boxer, is a hardcore Islamist fanatic; but UMass student Dzhokar is more complex, and puzzling: he's a 19-year-old pothead with an iPod and an interest in cool cars, but he's also a woozy, amoral murderer, building deadly pressure-cooker bombs with his brother and taking them out onto Boylston Street during the annual Boston Marathon to kill and mutilate as many onlookers as possible. (Three people lost their lives to the Tsarnaevs' twin bombs; some 260 were injured, many grievously. Afterward, Dzhokar tells his brother they should have tried to detonate their explosives at waist height in order to destroy even more lives.)

Berg stages the bombing vividly—we see the smoke, the blood, the writhing bodies—but with welcome economy: he doesn't linger on details of the carnage. He starts building tension with the arrival of an FBI contingent led by cool-headed agent Richard DesLauriers (Kevin Bacon, more than solid, as always). DesLauriers puts his squad of computer analysts right on the case analyzing an avalanche of digital footage that's being harvested from surveillance cameras and on-the-scene cellphones. Soon the techs have pried images of the Tsarnaevs out of all this imagery, and the question for DesLauriers and Police Commissioner Ed Davis (John Goodman) and Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick (Michael Beach) becomes whether or not to release grainy photos of the two brothers to the media. When it becomes clear that the bombs were packed with shrapnel in order to cause maximum human damage, the go-ahead is quickly given.

As the movie races along, there are some terrific scenes, most memorable among them a long car-hijacking sequence that leads to a blazing shootout on a quiet residential street. As the governor shuts down the city ("That's close to martial law," Commissioner Davis vainly protests), we watch a small army of cops and soldiers and snipers closing in on the surviving Tsarnaev brother, who's hiding in a boat on a trailer in an old man's back yard. After he's seized and taken away, the story is capped by the arrival of a steely FBI interrogator (Khandi Alexander), who's been brought in to confront Tamerlan's defiant wife, a woman who in real life remains a mystery to this day.

The movie is an exciting piece of work, but it seems to me to have one substantial flaw. At the end, after all the pain and loss and heartbreak we've seen caused by the Boston bombers, we're asked to accept the proposition that the best way to fight this sort of depraved violence is with "love." It seems a little late in the ongoing age of terror to still be entertaining such a fatuous idea.

NEXT: Violent America, peaceful Europe?

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  1. “The movie is an exciting piece of work, but it seems to me to have one substantial flaw. At the end, after all the pain and loss and heartbreak we’ve seen caused by the Boston bombers, we’re asked to accept the proposition that the best way to fight this sort of depraved violence is with “love.””

    I suppose one could argue that bringing the perps to justice is an act of love toward the victims – is that what the filmmakers are saying?

    1. No.

      1. Look, islamites only sow love……..

        1. Islam represents a post-love society.

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  2. we’re asked to accept the proposition that the best way to fight this sort of depraved violence is with “love.”

    *Please* tell me we’re not asked this by Loretta Lynch herself.

    1. No, that was then Gov. Deval “mini-O” Patrick himself: “This was a failure of people to love one another”.

      1. Obviously the fault of Christians to not die fast enough in the middle east today…..and the Crusades, never forget the Crusades.

        1. Don’t Christians, and Jews, and Yazzidi know that the middle-east was Muslim centuries prior to their religions founding and they need to convert / die / or leave ?!?!?!

          1. mixed that up, I thought you wrote that the Muslims should all convert or die…please don’t let the camel fuckers leave…

  3. Pass.

  4. “At the end, after all the pain and loss and heartbreak we’ve seen caused by the Boston bombers, we’re asked to accept the proposition that the best way to fight this sort of depraved violence is with “love.” It seems a little late in the ongoing age of terror to still be entertaining such a fatuous idea.”

    While it wasn’t until 2001 that we admitted it to ourselves, the Terror War has been ongoing since the mid 1960’s (at least), and Hollyweird has either ignored it or deliberately misrepresented it for that entire period. It would be nice if they would stop, but I don’t think that finding that they have not constitutes a surprise.

    1. I hope you’re not suggesting that there is some kind of continuity between today’s Islamic terrorists and previous groups that engaged in terrorism such as the Weather Underground of the 1970s. Terrorism is a tactic, and groups with very different agendas have engaged in it at different times. The fights against these various groups do not constitute one ongoing “Terror War”.

      1. Islamic terrorism has a centuries long history, but most of what we are dealing with today has its roots in the Arab-Israelionflics. When their initial attempt to wipe out the Jewish State failed (try not to pick any fights,with people tough enough to survive death camps, it won’t emd well) the Arab States decided to abandon the Palestinian Arabs they had persuaded to attack their Jewish neighbors, leaving them homeless. This was a deliberate ploy, to saddle Israel with a persistant problem. The rest of the world should have flat out told them, “You talked them in to joining your side in a war that you lost. That makes them YOUR responsibility.”. That didn’t happen. When the PLO first arose (1964) we should have looked at Arafat and said “This creep had his tongue so far up Hitler’s ass he could taste the bratwurst.” and shot him out of hand. We didn’t. We allowed Islamic Terrorism to be a successful strategy for decades. There were reasons, but the fact remains that Radical,Islam has been making warmon the civilized world since the ’60’s.

        1. Arafat had no connection to Hitler, as far as I can tell (he was not quite 16 when the Nazis were defeated). Yes, there was plenty of Arab terrorism against Israel, but let’s not forget that there was also terrorism committed by Zionist groups such as the Lehi (Stern Gang) in the days leading up to the establishment of Israel, things like the infamous bombing of the King David Hotel. The worst Islamic terrorism today, that directed or inspired by ISIS, has little connection to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In fact, Israel is supporting the overthrow of Assad in Syria, and therefore supporting the various “rebels” against his government, prominent among which is ISIS. So in the Syrian conflict, Israel is actually on the same side as ISIS. The Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) draws its inspiration not from Palestine, but from the Wahhabi doctrines promulgated by Saudi Arabia, who is (unfortunately) considered a U.S. ally. It is not a generically “radical” Islam that inspires ISIS, it is Wahhabism. The phrase “Radical Islam” is used in the West to describe them, and also to describe Iran, when the Shiite government of Iran and the Sunni Wahhabi government of Saudi Arabia are actually bitter enemies; conflating them with each other can only serve to confuse.

          1. Arafat’s uncle was the Grand Mufti, who had more than a passing acquaintance with Hitler. http://www.eretzyisroel.org/~jkatz/recruited.html

          2. yes, the wasabi is spicy

    2. The WOT has been on-going since Jefferson sent the fleet and the Marines to “the shores of Tripoli” to fight the Barbary pirates.

      Who were Muslim.

      Who were following the dictates of the murderous pedophile Mohammed (may pigs blood be upon him) to kill, enslave, or convert the infidels by seizing shipping and enslaving the crews.

      As the Muslim envoy told Jefferson, that’s “what Muslims do”.

      It hasn’t changed, its not going to change.

    3. The WOT has been on-going since Jefferson sent the fleet and the Marines to “the shores of Tripoli” to fight the Barbary pirates.

      Who were Muslim.

      Who were following the dictates of the murderous pedophile Mohammed (may pigs blood be upon him) to kill, enslave, or convert the infidels by seizing shipping and enslaving the crews.

      As the Muslim envoy told Jefferson, that’s “what Muslims do”.

      It hasn’t changed, its not going to change.

  5. At the end, after all the pain and loss and heartbreak we’ve seen caused by the Boston bombers, we’re asked to accept the proposition that the best way to fight this sort of depraved violence is with “love.”

    Hey, that’s how we defeated the Nazis, pal. Well, that and lots of killing.

    1. We distributed individual love pellets to those in need.

  6. Did they show the illegal searches and seizures and the National Guard checkpoints?

    1. From the trailers, they portrayed those as a good idea.

      So, not going to see it if that is what it’s pushing.

      1. Doesn’t seem like it, which is a real missed opportunity. Every time I hear some shit about “Don’t Mess with Boston” or whatever I think of footage of Natty Guard goons sticking guns in people’s faces and forcing them out of their houses into the street, or aiming at people looking out of their windows. That’s what happens when you disarm a populace and make them dependent on the state.

        Contrast with how that shit would go down in, say, Houston.

        1. I lived in the Boston suburbs at the time and since then I have moved back to the Houston suburbs. Your comparison is apt.

  7. third Berg movie, following Deepwater Horizon and Lone Survivor

    did he not also direct Sully, or Captain Phillips?

    (gasp!) Does this mean *someone else* in Hollywoodland is chiseling in on the whole “Relatively-recent-news-event”-meets-“Ordinary Heroism”-as-movie-genre ?

    I suspect whomever came up with this shit did their test marketing by looking at how middle-america reads schlock-pop-history books at the library, and realized that this whole “cop/fireman/oil-worker/airline pilot”-as-hero thing would be an easy translation.

    it feels like the entire genre was conceived as a marketing device by an insurance company.

    ive never seen any of them (*i watched half of lone survivor and decided i already knew how it ended and needn’t subject myself to unnecessary melodrama)… so i don’t know if there’s a ‘best’ in the form. I presume it was one of the Hanks rather than Walhberg films.

    1. this has a slightly different (positive take) on the genre =

      1. ugh

        We still go to the movies, but such are the margins in contemporary studio filmmaking that original storytelling is an increasingly unnecessary risk to take. It’s better to reboot, remake, reframe, and rebrand an already-told tale than it is to imagine, fashion, and sell a new one. If there’s a baseline of awareness for a movie???even if that awareness is limited to “I have heard of Tarzan”???it makes return on investment that much more likely. Now, when we go to the movie theater, we just expect to see new versions of other things: older movies, comic books, video games, board games, and television shows.

        1. sorry, the Opera/HTML commenting thing still has bugs. it posts every time i try and blockquote

        2. True.

          Hollywood continues to search for brand new ideas with proven track records, written by committee.

    2. Didn’t he say the third Berg movie that had Wahlberg in it?
      Don’t know if Wahlberg is in Sully and Phillips.

  8. the best way to fight this sort of depraved violence is with “love.” It seems a little late in the ongoing age of terror to still be entertaining such a fatuous idea.

    Dammit Kurt, you get better every week….

  9. Those chickenshit cocksuckers in Boston can all kiss my ass.

    1. Who exactly was strong in the “Boston Strong” trope? Because all I saw was a bunch of cops who didn’t find anyone and a bunch of people getting thrown out of their homes into the street by National Guards who apparently thought the 4th Amendment was a suggestion.

  10. Did the fm include the bit where law enforcement declared that the area where the terrorist was hidden in a boat had been cleared? IIRC, when the boat owner found him, didn’t he have some difficulty convincing 911 or whoever that the suspect was on his property as a result of that incorrect “cleared” designation? (I may be mistaken about this bit.)

  11. Well, Hollyweed is the cradle of fatuous ideas.

  12. . . . a pretty MIT student (Lana Condor) who has her eye on a smitten young cop . . .

    You’d think an MIT student would have higher standards.

  13. I wouldn’t see this movie if you paid me. For all of the reasons cited here.

    It’s so nice to see that I am not alone.

    When this bombing went down and I saw the police & national guard imposing an effective military rule on Boston and people cheering that on, I thought that America was dead. And, I didn’t dare say it out loud for fear of being strung up by the mob.

    1. Right there with you buddy.

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  15. I know that I am in a distinct minority among Americans, but this whole story makes me sick and ashamed.

    Not the bombings and the subsequent cop-killings – those brothers were despicable evil people – and really not even the heavy-handed way the cops just moved through those neighborhoods with no regard for the rights of the people living there, because that’s what cops do.

    No, what made me sick and ashamed was the way the residents CHEERED AND THANKED THE COPS when it was all over.

    I mean, I understand thanking the cops for catching the dangerous bad guys, but thanking the cops for pulling them out of their homes at the barrel of a gun and searching their property without a warrant or any sort of exigent circumstances. Remember, this went on for a couple of days. They could have coordinated with a judge or done something other than telling people to stay home and be subservient when the jackbooted thugs came knocking.

    I lived in the Boston area at the time and felt like I was in crazy land. These people were all descendents of the colonists and they were pathetic.

    1. Yep, the birthplace of American Independence is now peopled by an enfeebled populace.

      Just what the Founders dreaded and tried to prevent.

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  20. Oh fer christs sake!

    This article is nothing more than a statists promo of a state propaganda movie about an entirely faked/staged state event; an event that was staged to enhance the continuance of highly profitable “war on terror” .

    Get a grip people! There were no real bombs. Crisis actors and fake blood were hired/used, including military amputees.

    The Boston bombings were long ago exposed as just another badly executed military psyop.

    See “Boston Marathon- alLEGed “terror attack”- Apr15, 2013″:
    http://www.cluesforum.info/vie…..=24&t=1602

    When is “Reason” going to stop publishing these idiotic, bald-faced state worshiping Hollywood promos and start publishing some real investigative journalism?

    No regards, onebornfree

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  22. …as he calmly loaded his 1911, just like a lot of people around Boston those days

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